It was a hot and sunny day on Sunday in London, and I thought it was time for a walk. I thought I would go for a stroll in a local park, which is a mile or so away.
Nonsuch Park is the remaining part of a deer hunting park surrounding Nonsuch Palace, which was built by the English monarch Henry XIII. The palace itself was demolished in the 17th century, it stood for barely 100 years, and a rather ugly manor house was built in its place, but the park is a little bit of Surrey countryside in the suburbs of London.
I started out to walk to the park fairly early to escape the heat of the day, and when I turned in at the gates it was peaceful, apart from a few early dog walkers, and I walked a little way along the tarred path towards the house. Although Iíve lived in this area all my life, itís only recently Iíve started exploring the park. My husband always walked us along the metalled path to the house, and back, and Iíd always assumed that that was the extent of the park. I was wrong, it seems HUGE.
I quickly left the path and struck off along a mown strip towards the trees. The whole park is a nature reserve, so paths are mown into the grass, and then it is left to grow naturally for the wildlife.
The trees are a mixture of scrub and mature trees, mostly broadleaf, but some well grown conifers.
I follow the path beside the trees, in the shade, and discover a lake I had never seen before. I was hoping to see dragonflies, but either it was still too early in the year, or there were none.
Around the corner, down on the bank, I saw an elderly couple with their bottoms in the air, dipping jam jars into the water, obviously hunting for water beasts. I didnít speak. Startling them at that point could have led them to a cold wet plunge!
Walking away from the lake, the path winds between high hedges, the plants taller than me! The air is heavy with the sickly sweet perfume of cow parsley, and buzzing with insects.
The bees love the cow parsley.
Coming through the trees, Iím suddenly in a car park! I realised that though Iíd been walking for half an hour, Iíd only covered a couple of hundred yards as the crow flies! The path from the car park is another metalled one, leading to the house, and busy now with dogs and their owners. I spotted a black retriever heading down a tiny path between the trees and the nettles, and I followed him and his owner, grateful that Iíd put my long trousers on, as I brushed through them. After a little while they have disappeared into the trees, and I break out into a meadow.
I walked along slowly, absorbing the scents and sounds of wild southern England. I could have been a hundred miles from civilisation, not ten miles from Heathrow! I couldnít identify the birds by their song, but I thought they were warblers, and in the distance I heard the laughing cry of a green woodpecker. The wildflowers grew high in the grass, and it smelt of hot moist hay.
This one is mallow, a common plant in the south, it even grows in my garden. People call it a weed, but I like it
also comfrey, a herb also known as bone-knit.
Through a stand of trees, and the meadow is ended. A broad path leads to my left, and opposite me is a brick wall.
The wall was built in the 19th century. It encloses some of the original Tudor bricks, and was turned into an arboretum, but itís totally overgrown now. I take the path to my left into thick woodland, the wide path quickly peters out into a goat track, but I walk on.
Itís dark and cool in amongst the trees, and I have absolutely no idea where I am. My karate training paid off as I tripped over a tree root, and did a hop, skip and a jump, instead of what I would normally have done, and fallen flat on my face! Then suddenly, through the trees, I can see the sunlight and I know where I am again, turning left I come to a wide path in between rows of copper beech, glorious in the sun.
The trees are not very old, and have been planted alternating with oaks.
I find myself a bench, and sit for a while just enjoying the day and looking out over the park.
A large grey poodle arrives beside me, and makes a great fuss of smelling my trousers, I probably smell enticingly of cat! His owner is very embarrassed as he has to physically haul the animal away, but it gave me a giggle!
The path is busy with dog walkers and small children on scooters. Parents are carrying picnics, and I saw a large lady with a rucksack almost as big as she was, leading the way and forging into the undergrowth like it was the Zambesi!
I checked my pedometer and found Iíd already walked 10,000 steps and covered four miles. I walked beside the path towards the back of the manor house. The back is more attractive than the front.
The path runs round the side of the house and up a hill. Iím on the way back now and I know this path, and so I walk a little faster. Itís only a few hundred yard from the house, but already Iíve left everyone behind. Itís midday now, and hot in the sun, and Iím glad to be walking in dappled shade.
Little Speckled Wood butterflies dance in the shafts of sunlight, but they are camera shy. Nearing the end of my walk now, my path runs parallel to the one I started on, and I decide to cut across the park so that I can leave through the gateway.
The park is full of people now, and there is a queue of cars waiting to get into the car park as I turn on to the main road and walk the last mile home.
I finished walking at 16,500 steps and covering 6.5 miles. I had an outstanding morning.